The first sign that all was not well with the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) was brought to the fore by this newspaper, in our Editorial Opinion on April 29, 2019, that was about one year after the leadership of the association was handed over to Mr Tony Nwabubunike as its National President.
In that Editorial which we aptly titled: “ANLCA’s one year of Tony Nwabunike’s ineffective leadership”, we recounted the genesis of the crisis that was just brewing as at that time. We stated clearly that it predated Tony Nwabunike
We highlighted the genesis to be the violation of the unwritten part of the association’s constitution. For years, perhaps decades, it has been accepted as unwritten part of the association’s constitution that positions must rotate between tribes, and as such the positions must be shared between the two ethnic nationalities that dominate the association, that is the Yorubas and the Igbos.
It is a fact that during the tenure of Tony Nwabunike, and even when he ‘abdicated’ and handed over the reins to his Vice; Dr Kayode Farinto, there was no love lost among the leaders of the association, from chapters to zone and to the national executive, and most disturbingly, the Board of Trustees (BoT).
What actually started as a mere issue within the association’s BoT, and between two combatants for the board’s headship; that, is Alhaji Taiwo Mustapha and Chief Henry Njoku, eventually snowballed into a five year ‘war’.
We can proudly state that, no maritime media organisation in Nigeria devoted as much of its space to finding peace among the factionalised members of ANLCA. We did this as a social responsibility.
About three years ago, this newspaper again pleaded with the then-President; Mr Tony Nwabunike to rise above all partisanship and considerations in the larger interest of the association. He threw this advice away!
Again, on September 5, 2022, we wrote an Editorial with the title: “Our final recipe for peace in the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents”.
In that piece, we posited that: “Were it not for the controversial tenure elongation via an equally-controversial Annual General Meeting in Owerri, Imo state sometime in December, 2020, the tenure of Tony Nwabunike as President along with his executives ought to have expired”.
At a point, when we saw an alarming descent to anarchy in the association, we called for its proscription. Yes, we did and we gave reasons.
We boldly recall that, it took trust in the leadership of Nwabunike’s predecessor; Prince Olayiwola Shittu, his competence and transparency to rebrand ANLCA.
It was saddening that, the transformation that ANLCA that had witnessed under Prince Olayiwola Shittu went down
We saw as the doors that were widely opened for ANLCA during the leadership of Prince Shittu, gradually closed, owing to the protracted crises.
While the seemingly irreconcilable differences lasted, the association lost its relevance, respect and honour in the nation’s maritime and allied industry. At a point, it had two parallel executives led by two Presidents. It also had two Boards led by two Chairmen. It also had parallel executives in some chapters.
But, after everyone thought it was all over for the association, the Customs Consultative Council (CCC), an eminent group of stakeholders came to the rescue, and the rest as they say, is history.
Yes, peace has returned to ANLCA, but it came at a price. The truth is that all those who dragged the association to the near-abyss failed the association. You have all erred. You all displayed characters that elevated self above ANLCA.
For members of ANLCA who held sway as NECOM and BoT members and refused to let go, even when the association required reasoning and sacrifice, perhaps these wise words from the great Abraham Lincoln is apt: “Having tasted power, Lincoln wrote: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”!
Congratulations to those who have been elected as NECOM members. Your assignment is as easy as you chose to want it to be. It will be easy if you are selfless, transparent and erase the dichotomy which five years of acrimony had created. It will be a difficult task if you chose to alienate those who were not on your side in the build-up to the recent elections.
No doubt, grounds that have been lost, the respect and honour have eluded ANLCA and it will require a purpose-driven leadership to regain.
Our prayer is that you will justify the votes that brought you in and bring your association back on its feet.